Colorado River Advice

Hello Folks,

Three friends and I are trying to plan a trip after school, and had a couple questions. First, a couple details: we want to paddle the Colorado River from Austin to the coast. We’ve done tons of hardcore hiking trips before and we’re all really fit as well as know how to pack light for these things.

Would we be better off with canoes or kayaks?

If we’re going downstream, how far can we expect to travel per day? Assume 8 hours of hard paddling.

Would it work to just take hammocks and blankets for sleeping?

Any other advice for us?

Thanks in advance for the help

heres some info
River trail:


some thoughts
I’ve done lots of trips on which both kayaks and canoes were used - (I canoe)and my comments are based on those experiences

canoe or kayak ? kayaks may be faster, depending on weather or not you use longish sea kayaks - shorter kayaks won’t be any faster than your average canoe.

kayaks generally will take you longer to pack, as you need to have multiple small packages that fit into the small hatches - canoes, you load your gear into dry bags and lash them to the canoes (provides flotation as well as packaging)

time of year and water depth ? - if you go at low flows, I’d be expecting to have to get out of the boat from time to time at gravel bars which may be too shallow to paddle over - much easier to get in and out of a canoe to do that, and easier to get in oand out of canoe is you are landing at steep banks

also time of year related - carrying a cooler will be a whole lot easier in a canoe vs a kayak

hammocks vs tents ? may be not a difference, but I’d plan on having insect protection/screening for certain - if you wind up camping on gravel bars, you may not have trees to rig a hammock from

drinking water ? - I don’t know that river, as far as being suitable for filtering your drinking water. If water is readily available at locations you pass thru (parks, towns, etc?) then its likely much easier to carry a few gallons each between “watering holes” vs filtering. carrying a 2.5 gal fold-a-carrier jug, or just plastic gallon milk jugs.

how far ?
it should be easy enough to average 3 to 4 miles an hour in either canoe or kayak - that assumes steady paddling, with zero help from the current and no headwinds at all - I typically would plan on averaging 3mph - that allows some leeway for headwinds, any portages you may need to make around dams (low head dams kill a lot of people each year - don’t run any dams unless there is a boat chute built for that prupose), and any short breaks you may take for lunch or photo ops

headwinds will affect your speed considerably; always best to get a very early start, as normally the wind speed will be increasing steadily as the day goes on - so an hour paddling early in the morning will cover more distance and be less work than an hour paddling late in the afternoon. also, is hot weather, its nicer to paddle in the cooler part of the day.

also, jeep in mind that fatigue is cumulative - you will tend to be tired and slower the longer you travel - build in a layover day here and there

Colo R in Texas
Do not confuse the Colorado River in Texas with the one in the State of Colorado and Arizona.

You will be mostly on flat water behind dams. You will need to portage all the dams. Wind will be your enemy so start early and quit early. Watch out for power boats. You should find a lot of facilities and places to re-supply on most of your trip. Your preferences of equipment are up to you. Canoes can haul a lot more than kayaks, especially the poly kayaks that are under 12 feet.